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By Debbie le Quesne

‘Make or break’ time looms for social care

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Councils in England face a funding gap of £5.8 billion between March 2014 and the end of 2015/16, new Local Government Association analysis shows.

The figures are scary and according to Care Industry News, the online magazine, local authorities will need to make huge savings equivalent to 12.5 per cent on their total budgets before next April.

Successful integration of health and social care is vital, says the LGA to stop the care system from collapsing.

The £5.8 billion shortfall in council budgets will be caused by a combination of reduced government funding and rising demand on services – particularly from the elderly.

The funding gap in adult social care alone already amounts to £1.9 billion by 2015/16 – based on council adult social care budgets in 2013/14, says the Care Industry News report.

My abiding fear is where new saving will be made. Already we have heard pledges to protect spending on adult social care next year as much as possible, but I can’t help worrying worse is to come.

Next April, will mark a critical point for adult social care in England with the pooling of £5.4 billion from councils and the health service. The Better Care Fund will aim to improve care for older people and reduce financial pressure on councils and the health system through stopping lengthy waits for discharge from hospitals and avoiding unnecessary admissions to care homes.

Initiatives like the Vitality Partnership are already under way to make a difference in the community and funding for such work has been assigned for the year.

But the scale of savings which need to be found next year illustrate the urgent need for the Better Care Fund to “quickly succeed in radically improving the way public money is spent on looking after England’s elderly,” says Care Industry News.

Indeed, 2015 I believe will be make or break for social care and council leaders are saying the same.

Quoted din the online article, LGA Chairman Sir Merrick Cockell says: ”In recent years, local government has worked tirelessly to save billions while protecting services for those who need them most. But the scale of the challenge facing local authorities next year is stark. Council finances are on a knife-edge and the old way of doing things – including the way we care for our elderly population – just won’t work anymore.

“Next year will be a make or break moment for adult social care, for local services provided by councils and for the NHS.”

Central to the rescue mission is the introduction of the Better Care Fund (BCF).

“Neither councils, the NHS or England’s elderly can afford for this not to work,” he adds.

And I have just returned from a meeting about the Better Caring Fund. Interesting – it seems the Government is still “deciding and discussing,” while local authorities and CCG’s are now too far down the line to stop in what seems a perfectly reasonable use of money. Spend the money to help people stay healthy in their own homes or care homes and spend a whole load less on acute hospital admissions.

More cuts to an already financially struggling industry or cutting back on the BCF would be catastrophic.  The challenge ahead is enormous and I for one have everything crossed that all will be well.

 

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